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Covid-19: Top Questions 03.07.2020

In these challenging times, our teams have been receiving a high volume of queries from clients on the effect of the pandemic on family mediation.

To help our clients, Adele Wilkinson, partner in our Family Solutions team has collated some of her most frequently asked questions on this matter, with her responses, in the hope that this information is useful to you. Each week, we publish an article with a new set of questions but if you have any queries, at any time, please talk to the team for more detailed advice that is specific to you and your particular requirements.

 

How has lockdown affected the way family mediation works?

As family mediation work consists mainly of face to face meetings between the mediator and two clients, lockdown has had a dramatic effect on the way family mediators are managing mediation meetings. Face to face meetings have been replaced almost entirely by video link meetings. Initially, there was a great deal of trepidation for clients and mediators who were not used to remote working and the technology that goes with it. Now, however, over three months later, everyone seems to be much more comfortable with the prospect of a remote meeting – in fact there is a persuasive argument that family mediation using video link could be beneficial for many clients as they don’t have to spend time and money travelling to and from the mediators office. Furthermore, if they’re anxious about meeting with their ex, they might find a meeting by video link less daunting than a face to face meeting.

Is legal aid still available for family mediation and who qualifies?

Yes, legal aid is still available for family mediation. Anyone receiving Universal Credit is passported to receive free legal aid for family mediation, as is anyone on a low income – for which the mediator assesses clients at their one to one initial meeting.

During lockdown we’ve seen a rise in the number of clients eligible for legal aid, due to the huge rise in the number of people claiming Universal Credit, particularly self-employed people who haven’t been able to work.  Legal aid lasts for the duration of mediation for the person who qualifies and entitles the other person to a free assessment meeting and one free joint mediation session.

It’s important to note, though, that although legal aid remains available for family mediation clients, there is no legal aid available for representation at court, except in exceptional circumstances.

How has lockdown affected the issues people bring to family mediation?

Clients commit to the family mediation process to resolve issues involving children and finances amicably when, sadly, relationships break down. As well as the way the family mediation process has changed to embrace remote working, clients are also presenting with new problems, thrown up by the effects of lockdown. For example, it has been much more difficult for our clients in financial mediations to obtain accurate valuations for properties, pensions and other assets, because the people who would normally supply that information might not be working, or not in the same way, and because the pandemic has affected the value of many assets.

In mediations involving arrangements for children, we’re seeing a lot of families living in circumstances where parents aren’t able to agree on how the Government’s guidance for children to spend time with separated parents should be interpreted, or where new ways of life (with children at home and parents furloughed or unable to work, for example) result in the need to come up with workable arrangements for childcare and home schooling.

We’ve also worked with a number of families where couples have had to continue to live at the same property during lockdown, despite being estranged, which has proven to lead to really difficult situations for some clients to cope with.

How do you see family mediation working, moving forward?

I think it’s likely that a large number of clients accessing family mediation in the future will choose to use video link facilities, leading to a permanent reduction in the number of face to face mediation meetings.

Overall, I think that family mediation services and their clients will continue to adapt to whatever the effects of Covid 19 might be, to find ways of successfully putting their children first and resolving issues away from the court process wherever it’s possible to do so.

Our team is on hand to help you, your business and your family however we can, so please get in touch with us on 01482 325242 or email enquiries@andrewjackson.co.uk

Correct as of 11.30am 3.7.2020

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